Small Island Developing States

Small Island Developing States

For many travelers, there’s not a more idyllic vacation setting than a secluded island surrounded by vast turquoise waters. Picture Fiji, Seychelles, Antigua, Aruba. While all popular tourist destinations, these tropical paradises also share something else in common. These four islands are also classified as “Small Island Developing States” – a group of 50+ developing countries which tend to be hotspots for tourism and a critical priority for sustainable development.

What are Small Island Developing States?

Small Island Developing States, or SIDS, all face similar environmental, economic, and socio-cultural vulnerabilities largely due to their small size, isolated locations, and coastal geographies. Some of the shared development challenges they confront include:

  • Limited resources
  • Sensitive natural environments
  • Vulnerability to climate change
  • Distance from external markets
Maldives ocean and island
Boats in the Maldives

Tourism in SIDS

Tourism is an important economic opportunity and driver of development in SIDS. While their small size and faraway locations are burdens in most economic sectors, these characteristics are actually competitive advantages when it comes to tourism. This coupled with their typically lush landscapes, rich biodiversity, and unique cultural traditions make them highly attractive tourist destinations.   

Of course, these characteristics also present challenges for tourism in SIDS. For instance, their remote locations and lack of connectivity can make SIDS some of the most difficult and expensive destinations for travelers to reach.

Did you Know?

Tourism is the #1 economic activity for many SIDS

Tourism accounts for up to 98.5% of GDP in some SIDS

41 million international tourists visited SIDS destinations in 2013

Tourists often outnumber locals in SIDS, with 10+ tourists per resident in some destinations

Need for Sustainable Tourism

Tourism can create significant impacts on small islands and their inhabitants – either exacerbating or helping to alleviate development challenges.

On the one hand, tourism can wreak havoc on fragile island ecosystems and lead to a loss of cultural authenticity, while on the other it can create much needed local jobs and stimulate foreign investment. Because of this, we believe that it is particularly important to chart the course for more sustainable tourism in SIDS to minimize the industry’s adverse impacts and maximize its benefits.

Overtourism in Caribbean island

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Related Work

Oceans & Reefs

Learn more about how we’re enhancing conservation of marine and coastal destinations.

Climate Change

Learn more about our work minimizing tourism’s contribution to global climate change and combatting its impacts on destinations.